The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sleuths happy under PMO

New Delhi, Feb. 3: Central Bureau of Investigation officials have welcomed the Centre’s decision to bring the agency under the Cabinet secretariat, which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office, saying it would help them expedite administrative work.

Although the ministry of personnel has been handed over to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani after last week’s Cabinet reshuffle, the investigating agency continues to remain with the PMO.

Minister of state for personnel Vasundhara Raje, who has been dropped from the Cabinet to head the BJP’s Rajasthan unit, was looking after the CBI on a day-to-day basis.

Agency officials said they were facing problems in getting sanctions for various demands, including filling up vacancies and getting clearances for going abroad to carry out investigations, as some bureaucrats in the personnel ministry were reluctant to give go-ahead orders.

A senior CBI officer said as Vasundhara was not a “powerful minister”, she would hesitate to take decisions on issues that were crucial for the agency.

He pointed out how central police organisations such as the BSF, the National Security Guards and the CRPF benefited by being governed by L.K. Advani.

The home minister had announced a hike in the financial package of the NSG after its Black Cat commandos flushed out terrorists holed up at the Akshardham temple complex in Gujarat.

Few agency officials had words of appreciation for Vasundhara.

A senior agency officer recalled that once when they demanded free rations for their jawans as allotted to Delhi police lower staff, the ministry of personnel did not agree to it. The CBI has an annual budget of Rs 86 crore.

CBI officials said Vasundhara’s predecessor, the Congress’ Margaret Alva, understood the problems of the investigating agency better and often landed up at the CBI headquarters to sort out issues on the spot.

Cabinet secretary Kamal Pandey will now be in charge of the CBI’s functioning. He will pass on files from the agency to the PMO after going through them. Sources said that as of now, the government staff in the personnel ministry, which deals with the agency files, will function for the Cabinet secretariat from North Block.

The staff will move to the Cabinet secretariat after places are allocated to them.

Agency officials hope that their long-pending demands will be fulfilled now that the Cabinet secretary, the highest bureaucrat, along with the PMO, will be taking the final decisions.

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